The Graveyard of Three Million Years
"SEE... If you narrow your eyes, like this, to mere slits, and peer through your cupped
hands down into the dark corners of that chasm below, you can see it all again, just as it was millions of years ago....”
It was the Antiquarian who spoke, and he had found me there, on the rim of the plains of Alberta, at a point where the floor-like rangelands stop sharply and fall away into a vast void, to end hundreds and hundreds of feet below in an alien world as unlike its nearby world as day is unlike night.
And when one first saw the Antiquarian, he might well have been some creature risen up from that chasmworld lying there below the rim of Alberta’s plains. For he was old, and worn, the grey lines were about him, the haggardness of toil was in his features, and the blue eyes shone out in queer contrast to the tropical bronze of his sun-scarred
There was something about him which whispered of un-numbered years, of life which wizens and shrivels but never dies; he seemed so much a part of that dead world down at my feet that it was not hard to catch this spirit of the submerged past when he leaned forward again, peeringly, hands cupped about his eyes, and began to speak, in a monotone which was barely above a whisper:
“See...It is all there, now, if y ou have eyes to see . . . this land, as it was three million years ago. See the redwoods, stately, beautiful things, towering off there by a placid river. The palms, and the palmettoes, and beyond them the jungle leading down to the miry sea.
What rank and luxurious
growth.. . grass blades as thick as a man’s thigh, single palm leaves which would roof a house; and.. . .see that! What? That monstrous thing circling in the air just above the palms! See it? That grotesque thing, thirty feet in length, forty feet across the tips of the wings if it’s an inch. . that wing-toed bat, with the neck of a huge snake and the head of a crocodile! It is; it’s a Flying Pterodactyl.
“Do you see that big bat-bird with the reptile neck and the crocodile head circling slowly over the rank junglegrowth?” As one followed the pointing finger of the Antiquarian down to that spot where once the sluggish sea and the lush jungle ran together, one could almost see the black outlines of a still stranger creature: some crawling thing, with oval body ten or fifteen feet in length narrowing down into a thin, elongated neck as long as the body and terminated by a snake-like head, wallowing sluggishly through the rank seaweed on its short legs.
The Antiquarian spoke again. His voice trembled and as he leaned forward still farther, to the verge of the cliff, his whisper grew thin and piping.
“Think,” hesaid, “can’tyou see it?
There, crawling through the palmettoes. . . .Just past that big redwood ..That other huge thing. Oh, but this is going to be some war of the sea! It’s a Megalosaurus, and it’s waiting for the Plesiosaurus to come closer to the jungle... See, it’s a lizard as big as a whale, seventy foot at least; and see that horrible row of teeth when it opens its jaws. There’s going to be a fight of the old monsters, sure as you are alive. . . . Ah-h—h!”
The Antiquarian’s hand dropped away from his eyes and the other fell from my arm. He leaned back from the verge of the cliff and a thin smile came to his lips.
“I like to do that at times,” he said. “Fora while I was back in the Jurassic Age, three million years ago, and I think I had you with me for a moment or two. But doesn’t it set your blood tingling to think that all this actually went on one day, down here at our very feet? It’s huge; it’s too big for me, too vast, to think that a person can sit here on the very edge of the graveyard of 3,000,000 years ago, and can try to imagine what must have gone on down there below us. But it is too big for mere imagining.”
Perhaps the Antiquarian was right, in those moments when his fancy ran riot and free, and when he was able to carry others with him along that misty pathway
which leads into the unknown past.
Unknown perhaps, but not unprobed or unimagined.
For that is what the Antiquarian was doing, out there in the Badlands of Alberta, where the present age can shake hands with the past and can marvel at the strange whim of nature which rolled back one little corner of the curtain from the mist of endless years and laid bare before the eyes of man something of the mystic story of ages past.
For that is just what nature has done down there in that remote corner of Alberta, where there is a world, old and withered and redolent óf the lost centuries, encircled about and imprisoned there on the plains of a province which is new and youthful. It was a queer whim of nature which made of the Bad Lands of Alberta just the thing they are;foritis almost as though some huge hand had snatched away a portion of the crust of this earth, had opened a chasm leading down to the unknown caverns of the world, and had, in the playing of thisstrange trick of fantasy, turned back the hand of time to those millions of years ago when all manner of monstrous fish and fowl, and leviathans of land and sea, held the whole earth as their sporting ground and knew not the sight or sound of man.
Touching Fingers with the Past
NO, THIS is not romance.
There is no fragment of romance from end to end, unless, perchance, the mere fact of such a past is, the greatest romance the world has ever known.
The Bad Lands are a fact, hot and shriveled in summer with the breath of the tropics; and it is because they lie there, spread out before the eye almost as distinctly a world to themselves as though a man had passed from one room into another, that the Antiquarian likes to sit up there on the rim of the plains where the crust of the earth fell away, and gaze into the story of the past.
For it was the story of the past whiqh brought the Antiquarian to the Bad Lands, and something of that story he has already revealed. For years he has worked there, down in that chasm which is the graveyard of three million years, down in a land so dead and lonely that the passing of a stray jack-rabbit is like the visit of a long-lost friend, and the piping of a lone curlew comes like glad music to the ears. For ears the Antiquarian has toiled among the sandstone dunes and the myriad pyramids of rock, far beyond the ranges which ordinary man visits in the course of the normal span of life; and in the process of those years he has returned to the living world something of the story of the dead ages.
Alberta Three Million Years Ago ILTE HAS brought back to civiliza-*• tion with him all manner of strange skeletons snatched from the graveyard of the past; he has brought back the relics of the Jurassic Age, which preceded the Cretaceous Age so many myriad years ago. In this graveyard of the past he had unearthed the skeletons of all those strange things of the land and the sea which man has famed in fable, but for which the Antiquarian has now established an actual existence. He has found the horned Dinosaur, three genera of them whose skins were covered with scales laid like mosaic; he has found the plated Dinosaur whose hide was like plated armor; he has found the duck-billed Dinosaur, a weird monster some thirty-two feet in length with horned heads and
great hoofs; and he has found the Trachodon, the, Triceratops, the horned-faee Ex-Ceratops, the Ichthyosaurus, and scores of other walking, creeping, crawling things which must have made of the world a horror those millions of y ears ago.
And all that in Alberta, sunny Alberta, where the chinooks sweep down in the springtime to fondle the plains?
Yes, it is all in Alberta, tucked away along that strip of the Red Deer River, from Steveville angling some twenty-five or thirty miles to the eastward, through that stretch where the Red Deer runs two hundred, three hundred, five hundred feet below the level of the surrounding plains.
Why it should be in that particular spot, no one knows, except that it is here that the crust of the earth has been snatched away, doubtless by the floods of the Red Deer River hundreds or thousands of years ago, so many
thousands of years ago that the thin trickle of water which is now the Red Deer must have been a roaring flood like a hundred Niagaras. The Red Deer is now but a pleasant stream as it makes its way through the low-levels of the Bad Lands, some hundreds of feet below the near-by plains; and yet, at some time in the misty past, its raging torrent cut a huge swath through that section of the prairies, a swath which removed the crust of the earth for great sweeps, five or ten miles in width, and which, in its passing, tore with reckless hands at that covering of earth which lay over the graveyard of the
For it is down in there, in that cavity torn out of the earth by the ancient roaring flood of the Red Deer River, that the Antiquarian works and that he finds the Dinosaur, the Stegosaurus, the Theromorph, and all those other fossils and skeletons which tell the inquiring world of to-day that some time, back in the dim reaches of the past, there was a prehistoric Cordilleran Sea stretching from the Rocky Mountains eastv/ard, a sea whose bottom and whose graveyard is being worn deeper and deeper with each passing season and is giving up reluctantly to the science of man something of the story of life upon this earth before man was a living human being.
The Bad Lands! Torrid with the-breath of summer: cold and bleak with the coming of night.
“Yes, I like them,” the Antiquarian spoke softly again. “They frighten, me; they make me know that my life is nothing but a swift second in the passage of time. For when you sit up here on the brow of the cliffs, in the day or in the night, and look out over that desolate waste of a graveyard, you can not but think of that ancient sea and the monsters at play or at war. God! And to think it was millions and millions of years ago!”
It gets a person just like that.
For no living being with a spark of imagination in his whole make-up could sit on the rim of the plains, and feel that here, in this one place, the bottom of the world had dropped out, to reveal another world, without feeling something as the Antiquarian feels. It is too swift a plunge back through the ages; it is too sharp a snapping of the present-day ties for the brain to grasp it all; for nature, ever whimsical in her vagaries, has done but little to prepare man for this sudden leap into the graveyard of the past.
You walk or you drive over a rangeland so flat that the horizon looks like a huge ruler laid against the sky; you motor, if you choose, to a spot within ten yards, a single
yard, of the brink, and there, suddenly thrown out. before you, as suddenly and as sharply as a new picture upon the screen, there is a new world which you probablyhave never known before.
There are two ways to arrive at the Bad Lands of Alberta, though there are few people who ever choose to arrive in any way whatever. But whichever way one goes, there is the dull, slumbering splendor of it all which drags one into the past and will not let him rest, even
though the Antiquarian may not be sitting there upon the brink peering into that dead Cordilleran Sea.
Just why .there should not be more people travellingto the Bad Lands to see, to study this place with its fascination of desolation, one can not say; but it is a fact that except for palaeontologists suchas the Antiquarian, or a wandering Indian, a stray cow-puncher, a railway engineer or a mounted policeman, the Bad Lands are unvisited by the foot of man from one year’s end to the other. Their lonely monarchy is unspoiled by the works of man; and when we found the Antiquarian sitting there at. the brink of another world, with cupped hands before his eyes, he was the only living, moving thing within the full compass of vision, except for the motor-driver, who, in the course of the day, had discovered that he did not know the way to the Bad Lands, though he had lived within fifty miles of them for twenty years.
Doubtless, it is because of their desolation that they are not known. Yet their bleak spectacle is fascinating in its awe, and probably the time is not. far distant when the railway companies will come to appreciate that, from the scenic standpoint, the Bad Lands have an attraction all their own. One would not go there for beauty, unless it is the beauty of violence; one would not go there for summer seas or shady lanes, for it is just the bald-headed prairie which has fallen away into turmoil, with the thin trickle of the Red Deer River making its waythrough the drab bottomlands; and yet there can be no doubt of the fact that the Bad Lands have an attraction all their own.
To reach them, you can arrive by the Canadian National Railways either from the east or the west. From the west, y-ou travel out of Calgary on the line to Saskatoon, and you stop off at Hanna. In the summer of 1922 the accommodation from Hanna southward to Steveville, which is the jumping-off place for the Bad Lands, was nothing to boast about; but a person who starts for a place with such a name as the Bad Lands surelywill not be looking for dining cars and linen sheets.
From Hanna southeastward it is a branch line of the National which they started to run down to Medicine Hat, but. on the occasion when we found the Antiquarian, the Nationals had halted at the Red Deer River and they stood there, peering over into the shallow end of the graveyard as though pondering the passage beyond. In other words, building had halted at the Red Deer, and not even construction train or otherwise could be found to speed up the once-a-week passenger service into Steveville. But there is no occasion for alarm in that, as the ubiquitous flivver will be found somewhere not far away-, just eager to dare the passage of the plains, either to or from Hanna, or from the half-way point at. Cessford which can claim a twice-a-week railway service.
So, if you study y-our time-table properly-, the Nationals will drop y-ou at the back door of the graveyard of three million years: but like all back doorways, it is the least impressive. For at this point, the cliffs of the Red Deer River give but a hazy promise of the pyramided wonders beyond. It is the gateway, as it were, through which one drops down to the river level, to plod up that slit, in the-earth along the river’s bank until one comes to those towering cliffs which are the real Bad
With the Antiquarians
HERE are ways and ways tosee the Bad Lands. If you are an Antiquarian, then you go to Steveville and you plan your work methodically. You buy a wagon and a team of horses: you load them up with your equipment, and you work your way slowly up the river bottom to the high cliffs, and there you set about your pillage of the story of : be past.
But if you are just, an ordinary sight looking for a thrill which will catch the breath shas; ¡y, then you avoid the river at Steveville, and you -e.-p-.-li southeastward to the steeper banks. You approach the -1 ffs from some other point, from Dead T.odp> Gan.'on or along llu I’MTree Trail, and then, walking or driving across the f'oorlike plains, y-ou come suddenly upon 1 he great no.-tof the spectacle in all the splendor of its desolation.
And then, perhaps, you sit there in wond-r as the I iniliiwfit Continued on page 39
Continued from page 21
Antiquarian still likes to sit, even though he has wandered the arid wastes for many a long year.
But there is still another way to reach the Bad Lands, but whichever way you go remember that you are beyond reach of the helping hand of man and that you must take your full supplies with you, whether for a day, a week or a month. The other way is by dropping off the C. P. R. at Brooks or Bassano and following the trail of the flivver across the plains northward. If you are fortunate, you find a driver who knows the way; other-
wise you find the other kind, And there are hut two kinds of drivers on the prairies leading up to the Bad Lands; there are the drivers who get lost, and there are those who do not. Yet, having picked the former class, sympathy still rests with the pilot of the plains, for it is a strange uncharted roadway he must fol-
One ambles blithely out through the rolling wheat-fields, out past the lonely settlement where buildings are spaced far thinner than the miles, out past the outlying tent of the last homesteader who
has not yet dragged lumber across the plains for his shack, out past the last colonies of the irrigationists who are stretching the water-bearing ditches farther and farther into the rangelands; and then, when he has passed the last construction camp of the irrigation workers, one comes to the open rangeland where the herds of cattle and horses still run free and wild.
Through it all the little flivver rambles. Perhaps in the outlying districts the latest irrigation ditch will have overflown its banks and will have left an impassable quagmire where a day or two before there was some sort of a trail leading out between the wire fences of the homesteader. What matter?
“A wayaround?” says the homesteader. “Oh, just drive over my fence and through the back lot. Yes, it doesn’t matter, drive over the meadow.”
So you tear down the fences and drive over the meadows, and when you have done that a sufficient number of times you come out beyond the barbed wire, out upon the floor-like plains which taper away into the rangelands; then in time, if you are fortunate, you pass the herds of horses and cattle, and off there, somewhere, rolling ever to the North over the open, untracked plains, you strike a crow line which leads to Dead Lodge Canyon.
Dead? As dead and lifeless, as moveless, as any object of nature which the eyes of man have ever gazed upon.
Dead! Even before you catch a glimpse of the dull butteland cliffs which mark the farr-off horizon, you come to feel the consciousness of a life which was smothered in the making. All about, the billowless rangeland, unspotted as far as the eye can see in either direction with so much as a single moving thing, with a soil which is hard and baked, with wire-like grass which is patched and burned, and with here and there a flowering cactus lying snug upon the ground. Then, gradually, in the distance, there is that break in the horizon which speaks of faroff, measureless things.
That break is the far verge of the Bad Lands where their endless pyramids and buttes rise up and blend with the thin dull line which marks the union of earth and sky.
Words? They are hopeless things, when one moves cautiously from the car at the near brink of the Bad Lands and goes with a soft and wondering step to that spot at the mouth of the chasm where the Antiquarian sits and peers into the tangled story of the past.
Words! Futile things, when one conies to peer through the vastness of space down at the floor of the earth which was once the shore of that dead Cordilleran Sea. Down there the monsters played and revelled and fought a million years ago.
Down there. . . Whoever heard music in the night, and paused and tried to speak, and paused again because of the words which would not come?
That is the Bad Lands. That is why the Antiquarian sits at their very rim and gazes through the long hours of the day and listens to their murmurings of the night.
“See,” he whispers, “another step, or two, and I fall. I tumble down the slopes for hundreds and hundreds of feet, and in the end I come up against the floor of a forgotten ocean, as dead and lifeless as that ocean itself. See, down there below us, that thin, winding serpent of a river, a mere thread it seems. No, it could never have washed those myriads of tons of rock away. It must have taken a torrent thousands of years to do that, some longlost torrent. And then beyond, look! The pyramids, the buttes, countless thousands of them; queer, monstrous things. How they rise up there in endless confusion, each one a shape of its own! See how they are pitched and tumbled and thrown together, as though some huge hand had sown them lavishly! And the color of them, the deadness. Dead, drab, yet brilliant with death. Grey, grey, ochre; and white where the sun glints upon them. White and yellow like washed sandstone; brown where the gleam of ironstone shines through; black, frightening, terrifying in death when the shadow of night lies upon them. Yes, they do make one creep when you think of their age-long desolation.... And yet, how they grip you! A lost land, lost and dead and motionless. . . And how fitting that it should|be the graveyard of amillion years. Words? No, there are no words to tell of my Bad Lands; but sometimes,
sitting up here, I can feel them, can sense their grip.... But come....!”
WHEN the Antiquarian rose to his feet, one was conscious of some definite purpose.
“Down into them. Down to their depths, to come closer at grips with them, down into them, to feel something of their* deadness... Why, up here you can feel a breeze blowing, faintly; but down there
So you look down that slope where there seems little footing for a mountain goat, even had one been there; and you shake your head.
“No, there is no way down. It is all right for you; you intend to be a part of this graveyard in the end; but as for me, I have an appointment in Calgary next week, and I have a strange desire to keep it.”
So the Antiquarian laughs. It is quite all right. You may stand at one brink of the graveyard, and perhaps, as far as the eye can see, there is no way down. But how could the Antiquarian have gotten up if there is no way down?
“There are ways,” he assures. “You only need to know them; that is all. Yes, you might walk for miles and miles along the edge of the plains without finding a safe way down, or one which you could follow back again. But come; my camp is just under these cliffs a half mile farther down.”
So in time you once more peer over the edge of the cliffs, and there, a tiny redand-white striped thing standing out against the grey floor of the bottomlands, is the outline of a tent. It looks solemn and lonely, hopelessly forgotten down there, that small white tent snuggling close to the base of the graveyard walls. But it has been the home of the Antiquarian for weeks now; and from this spot above it almost seems that one could cast a stone upon it.
“We can get down in an hour or so,” the Antiquarian says, as he leads the way.
So he walks to a break in the cliffs where they fall away less sharply, where the pyramids stretch out before you like the dull-grey tents of some numberless army, and he begins to pick his way down through those dunes. In a moment or two, the old world you have known for so long is lost, and a new world begins to cling about you. It is a world such as you have never known before, a world of clay beds and cherty slopes, of weird pinnacles and pyramids, of strange color mixed with rqonotone drabness, a world which grows hotter and hotter with each step you take down into its depths.
It is clay underfoot; all about are the sandstone dunes, blotting out all vision of the plains above, blinding every hundred yards or so the trail you have come. For you wind about among the dunes, wind and tangle and twist and double, seeking a lower slope with each twist and turn, in the hope that in the end you will come down upon the bottomlands. You look beneath, and you see that the footfalls make scarcely a mark upon the clay; and then you wonder just who is going to find that tangled way back again.
“Yes, the clay is baked hard now by the heat of the sun,” the Antiquarian notices your worried glance. “Strike a little harder, and the fragments will break away with every step. That will leave a trail for you to follow baek. It is fine now: those broken fragments hold you on a hillside just like spikes; hut after a rain! You might just as well try to walk on soap.”
In A Prehistoric Graveyard
DOWN you go, seeking ever a lower level among the dunes; until in time the Antiquarian pauses and turns sharply. He points to a huge cave dug into the side of one of those sandstone pyramids.
“Two years ago we got a Duck-Billed Dinosaur in that cave,” he recalls. “It was thirty-two feet long; and now it is in the museum in New York. I just found it by chance. The thing was lying there, with three feet of the tail sticking out of the sandstone dune. The year before we had been past here and had not seen a thing; but that is the way it'goes. We are, doubtless, standing on a Dinosaur or a Brontosaurus, or perhaps a Traehodon, at this minute; but it may take years before the winter rains wash the clay away.” That is the way it goes with the Antiquarian. Constantly he is wandering
about the graveyard of the past, looking for those strange spots in the soil formation where the rains of the year previous have washed away a few inches or a few feet of the earth's covering. For at any moment, where the earth has been silted away, he knows he may come upon the tail, the head or the protruding legs of those queer old monsters who fought life to an end in this very spot so many millions of years ago.
The Antiquarian still points to the cave.
“A beauty,” he says, “thirty-two feet long. We found him there with his tail sticking out of the rock; and when we uncovered him, the animal was lying there, on its side, like a dead dog. I thought I had never seen anything so terrible, so forlorn. Three million years he had been dead, and it was for us to bring him back to earth, that curious people might gaze at his skeleton through the glass of a museum wall. . . And that other cave, just beside it! That was the last resting place of a Triceratops. It must have been, though all we found was the skull. It was over five feet long, with horns 33 and a half inches in length. We are still searching for the rest of the skeleton higher' up the cliffs, for it must have fallen from above; perhaps hundreds of years ago. Yes, we had to sift tons and tons of sand to get the specimen complete, the head, I mean. Come!”
You follow'the Antiquarian toward the pillaged grave of that unknown age; you see the grey cliffs, the silver-grey sandstone, the yellowish, ash-colored clay. You peer at length into the cave, and you see a dull, cheerless passage leading underground.
“Dangerous? No?” says the Antiquarian. “Not unless a hundred ton of rock should fall upon you. It shows the difficulties of plundering a graveyard just like this.”
Difficulties? The Dinosaur had been found there, with his tail sticking out of the sandstone. So the Antiquarian and his helpers had labored for months to recover the specimen. Slowly, laboriously, they had chiseled away the upper face of the rock until the bulkof thespecimen was uncovered. Then their work was scarcely begun; for the remains of a Dinosaur are as fragile as glass.
“You can see,” the Antiquarian speaks, “how we had to cut a second tunnel through the rock, under the specimen. Then we had to go way past him, and chisel up, until the lower tunnel met the upper. That let down a whole block of rock, ten ton or more, and in that rock we had our Dinosaur.”
Yes, that is the way they recover the fragile skeletons, or the portions of skeletons of the dinosaur, the stegosauri, and all those hundred-and-one other mysterious things of the past which delight so much the hearts of the palaeontologists. In places the bones have been piled up like jetsam and flotsam of the sea, like seaweed left on the shore, and when the Antiquarian uncovers one of those spots on the floor of the dead Cordilleran Sea he holds gay revel. But for the most part it is a case of constant searching of the cliffs and the sandstone dunes; for the past has taught him that the best localities forfinding some portion of the story of the past is above the present level of the Red Deer River. Sometimes the specimens are to be found protruding from the rock near the level of the prairie, and in such cases they are usually preserved in ironstone concretions; or a bog-iron covers the bones. Sometimes they lie in the sandstone with yellow streaks; sometimes they lie up the coulees, in the buttes; but wherever they lie, it is difficult to find a complete skeleton in a single grave. At times, two or three may be found tangled together, as though they had died in the grip of war and had sunk down in the sand of that old seashore for the. countless years to build a voiceless monument above them.
But no matter how they may be found, the skeletons, whether complete, or but the half of a head, or but a single bone, or the fragment of a tail, are carefully cut out of the rock and are wrapped up in canvas in readiness for the day when they can be derricked to the top of the plains.
“See that huge rock just outside the ■cave.” The Antiquarian points. “A ton at ■least, but it holds the thigh bone of a Duck-Billed Dinosaur. Yes. from here it is three hundred feet to the prairie level, and it will have to go up there somehow.”
YOU turn and you tramp away from
that place, down, still down into the depths of the graveyard of the past. Hotter and hotter it grows; the breeze which had once laved your cheeks, smothers and dies away. The baked clay begins to powder underfoot; its particles rise up and catch at your throat; and the blur of a sun-burned world grows all about you; it glares back from the blistered rock; it glimmers through the waves of heat, and it reaches out as though it would exact its own price from those human beings who dare to pillage the graveyard of the million years.
The rocks all about, sculptured by wind and sand and rain; bitten by the frosts of winter which gnarl them! Towering buttes, hard stratum and greyish marl; fine sandstone, greenish; purplish títere, it seems, where the heat waves rise up, or is it the eye which deceives?
Your hand reaches out and toys with some strange object in the rock before your face; some queer little thing the size of a penny.
“An oyster of long ago,” the Antiquarian whispers, “though we have found them six or eight inches across. We are now near a Trachodon quarry, of the Mesozoic Age perhaps, the latter part of the age at least. Yes, that means they are from three to six million years old. Figs even,
rushes, aquatic plants, palmettoes.....
And there were six skulls of the Triceratops in this cave. . . Just across is the chalk canyon; found a fourteen-foot fish there. . . A few miles up, in the Belly River series, there are some fine bone beds. Generally find them on clay; in places we got thousands of bones,teeth six or eight inches square, shields of sturgeon, enameled scales of garpikes, soft-shelled turtles; all manner of queer things... creatures of the misty past... ”
So you sit in a spot where the blistering sandstone keeps out the blistering rays of the sun, and the Antiquarian tells you about it all, the difficulties, the lures, the fascination. You pull the cactus spikes from your shoes while he tells of the queer way in which these creatures, myriads of them, were trapped here so many million years ago. They were things of the sea, for the most part, caught inland just east of the base of the Rocky Mountains, by some monstrous upheaval of the sea perhaps; but caught there and trapped just the same. Caught and trapped until they fought out their last battle for survival, and then in the surviving, died. That, says the Antiquarian, is why so many of the specimens are imperfect; that is why a Trachodon’s head may be gone. Perhaps it is resting in the stomach of some age-dead Tiger of the Everglades; and that likewise is why arms and legs and tails may be missing when the skulls of other creatures are found.
Difficulties? The specimens are brittle, often they crumble to the touch. For ages and ages they have rasted there, imprisoned in the rock, and when once the air touches them, they crumble quickly and wither away. That is why they are taken out in the solid rock, and are taken to the museums where the antiquarians may work upon them at leisure. You gaze at the specimens of the old monsters as they appear behind a glass cage. Perhaps it has taken a year for the mounting of the beast; but what is that to the Antiquarian who has given his life to just such work? What does it matter if each small fragment of each skeleton has to be uncovered, a fraction of an inch at a time, and if it has to be cemented over in mediately to keep the air from working itsruin? What matter the long days when the Antiquarian lies upon his back in those heat-smothered caves, chiseling away at the rock, working in cement to preserve the skeleton; what matters it all? For what are a few months in the life of the Antiquarian, if he can, by squandering them thus, bring back something of the story of thiee million years?
For the bones, as they rest in the rock, are not bones at all. They are fossils. Once they were bones; but through the process of the endless age, they were trapped and buried in the sands of the old sea shore. Earth and soil and time and a myriad other things piled on them with the passing of the centuries, until liquid mineral worked its way through the sandstone, worked its way through the cavity of the bones and filled that space which was once the skeleton of a dinosaur, filled it and hardened, and became im-
bedded there in the bald rock, until now, because of the peering eyes of the Antiquarian, its story is being told.
THEY go to the Gobi Desert in Asia, which they fondly call the cradle of the World, for just such things as the Antiquarian is finding each year in the graveyard of Alberta; but one wonders if they have any more patience or if they are any more keen than is the Antiquarian. Once he dropped the thigh bone of a Plesiosaurus. It crumbled into a seemingly hopeless mass of fragments; but did he despair? No, he spent six weeks in picking up the parts, sticking the ends together, filling the cavities with shellac and welding it all together with burlap strips, until in the end it was outwardly as perfect as when he dropped it upon the floor of the world.
That is the Antiquarian, withered and burned by time, grey and seamed, careless of all things else but the world of the past. And that is the graveyard, the flash-back to the Mesozoic Age, which, they say, began some 12,000,000 yearsago, made of Alberta and Saskatchewan of low-lying marshy country of semi-tropical verdure and growth, and populated its miry seas with'those monstrous beasts whose bones are now lying buried side by side with the relics of reeds and trees which in this age are the products of the near tropics.
Down through the heat and the windswept dunes you go, until in the end you come to that striped tent by the winding banks of the Red Deer River. A simple place it is, and lonely, with the barest necessities of life, and with rocks piled all about, rocks which have been carved from those towering cliffs with the acme of labor; but long before you arrive, you have come to understand something of the spirit which has driven the Antiquarian into this Lost World for year after year; you sense something of the urge which holds him here through the blisterings of the summer days and thé blank dreariness of their nights.
The sun’s rays tilt; they glance from the rocks; the blister beginsto dieout of them.
It dies, swiftly. A chill creeps into the air.
Then the Antiquarian leads you again, back by the pathway over which you
The deadness still lies all about, deader perhaps than when the sun was glinting so keenly upon it. A greyness creeps into the distance, blending dunes with sky. A jackrabbit poses there for a moment .before you; then it flits away, the only living wild thing you have seen through the whole day. It comes almost like the glimpse of a friend after long parting.
A curlew calls, lonely, dreary; then it passes away into the dusk.
Silence again; the death of the graveyard of three million years rising all about
Again you sit at the edge of the cliffs, looking out over the reach of the Bad Lands, over its pinnacles and dunes, over the creeping shadow of night. Silence, so keen as to be felt.
“Yes, it is at times like this, when the shadows grow swiftly, that I can see those monsters down there at play,” the Antiquarian speaks softly, gazing into the past, “I can see them, great living things, moving through the darkness. Huge, monstrous things, rising up out of their caves to battle again. Hear that sound?”
There is a shriek in the air, and you shuffle restlessly. Then the Antiquarian laughs again.
“A curlew,” he says, “with the echoes caught up somehow.”
Echoes, melting swiftly into the silence. A dead world, with the Antiquarian still standing there gazing off into the distance.
You turn away, and the flivver rambles once more across the plains, into the twilight. You look back, and the dusky figure stands at the verge of the cliffs, peering, staring into the mystery of the past; it is still there when the swift loneliness of night sweeps down to blot it out; and the Antiquarian’s eyes are seeing. . What? Who can say? Doubtless it is the lost spectacle of monsters at war or at play, monsters which, through the strange touch of phantasy, can rise up from that graveyard of three million years. .